With $107 million of the $120 million needed to complete the long-awaited Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., now in hand, construction can officially begin.
On Thursday, the National Park Service issued building permits for the project, which was first authorized in 1996. A private foundation will build the memorial before turning it over the park service, The Associated Press reports.
Christine King Farris, the 82-year-old sister of the slain civil rights leader, said her brother would be humbled by the magnitude of the project. "I think he would say, 'No, don't do this for me,' but we have to do it because generations yet unborn need to know about Martin Luther King Jr.," she told The Associated Press.
Harry Johnson, president of the King Memorial Foundation, noted that the monument will be the first on the mall that is not dedicated to a president or war hero. Instead, he told AP, it is being erected to honor a man who waged a battle with peace and nonviolence. "When future generations visit Washington, they will see a mall that more closely reflects the diversity of our great nation," he said.
Construction is expected to begin within 30 days, said Deryl McKissack, who heads the design-build firm that will manage the project, told AP.